2012: This weekend, Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, the sixtieth anniversary of her ascent to the throne, with a series of parades, events, and much fanfare from the public. Only the second Diamond Jubilee in the history of the United Kingdom, one of the weekend’s highlights was a floating parade winding its way down the Thames river. The Daily Mail, which has devoted itself in recent weeks to all things royal, recounts the scene:
The flotilla was led by the Royal Jubilee bells, with churches on the banks of the Thames ringing their own bells as the boats passed. Next came the rowing boats, led by the spectacular Gloriana, the million-pound row barge Gloriana led by Olympic gold medalists Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, rowing with sixteen others. A forty-one gun salute was fired from the Tower of London to celebrate the Queen’s sixty years on the throne while thousands of people cheered on the banks of the River Thames despite the wet weather. The banks of the river brought a variety of complementary displays, with the Queen’s face lighting up as the model of Joey the War Horse from the stage hit greeted her from the roof of Festival Hall. Tower Bridge was raised for the arrival of the royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, which moored alongside HMS President to watch the rest of the seven mile-long flotilla making its way down the Thames.
The Spirit of Chartwell had been fitted with red velvet thrones for the royal to sit on but the Queen and her family chose to stand throughout as they waved to the crowds and enjoyed the spectacle.
1897: Largely absent from the public eye after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria celebrated her own Diamond Jubilee with a glorious return to the streets of London. Inviting dignitaries from around the world (including the prime ministers of the sovereign states within the British Commonwealth), Victoria’s retinue, with the then seventy-five-year-old queen riding in an open-air carriage, processed from Buckingham Palace to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where a Thanksgiving ceremony was held in her honor. She describes the day in personal diaries recently released by the Royal Archives:
A never to be forgotten day. No one ever I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me, passing through those six miles of streets, including Constitution Hill. The crowds were quite indescribable and their enthusiasm truly marvelous and deeply touching. The cheering was quite deafening, and every face seemed to be filled with real joy. I was much moved and gratified I started from the State Entrance in an open state landau, drawn by eight creams, dear Alix, looking very pretty in lilac, and Lenchen, sitting opposite me. I felt a good deal agitated, and had been so all these days, for fear anything might be forgotten or go wrong. Bertie and George C. rode one on each side of the carriage, Arthur (who had charge of the whole military arrangements) a little in the rear...Before leaving I touched an electric button, by which I started a message which was telegraphed throughout the whole Empire. It was the following: “From my heart I thank my beloved people, may God bless them.”
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